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A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

Jock Anderson's Caseload: Top lawyers outed

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Lawyer Marie Dyhrberg - appointed a QC - a long overdue recognition of a resolute defence lawyer. Photo / NZ Herald
Lawyer Marie Dyhrberg - appointed a QC - a long overdue recognition of a resolute defence lawyer. Photo / NZ Herald

Top Lawyers Outed In Govt Revelation

This week let's celebrate 14 newly-anointed winners in the latest Queen's Counsel competition. More than 100 also rans weren't so lucky.

Most names have rarely been heard of in public but occasionally colourful-haired Auckland barrister Marie Dyhrberg and Wellington barrister Matthew Palmer are headline-makers.

Ms Dyhrberg's appointment is long overdue recognition of a resolute criminal defence lawyer - a woman colleagues say is as compassionate as she is tough-minded.

Ms Dyhrberg - who has a cat called Oscar - goes into bat for some of the nastiest of villains as well as some found in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She famously lost a robust fight opposing the New Zealand Herald's campaign to unmask American billionaire and yachting fan Peter Lewis, who was discharged without conviction and given name suppression by Judge Dave Harvey on a cannabis charge, after offering to give $53,000 to charity.

In a bizarre courtroom exchange, Ms Dyhrberg reportedly leaned across the Press bench and warned Herald reporter Josie Clarke not to "try anything cute because we'll sue the arse off you and he has the money to do it."

Ironically, Ms Dyhrberg's failed bid to keep Mr Lewis's name secret, resulted in more courtroom openness, and made it harder for lawyers to get folk name suppression because they were rich and famous, or simply didn't want their name in the paper.

She ticked off former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark for poking her nose into police investigations around the death of the Kahui twins and the role of their mother.

And she became embroiled in a farcical hoo-hah over the identity of a well-known comedian whose name she got suppressed on a charge of committing a sexual offence on a four-year old girl.

That case resulted in several rumour-ravaged innocent comedians having to say it wasn't them.

Ms Dyhrberg has not always got baddies off the hook but those who know her say she has tackled her cases with optimism and a dogged belief that justice will out.

She has also done less publicly seen work with, for example, the criminal bar association, the international bar association and as a senior magistrate of the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oneo Island magistrate's court.

Matthew Palmer will be remembered for spitting the dummy and walking out of the Crown law office when he was overlooked in favour of private sector outsider Mike Heron (ex-Russell McVeagh) as Solicitor-General.

A son of former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the former deputy Solicitor-General took the rejection of his application hard.

It would be wrong to speculate giving him a QC-ship is some kind of sweetener.

Meanwhile a few envious eyebrows have been raised by the inclusion among the bunch of talented Aucklander Paul Wicks - whose website says specialises in criminal and employment law.

Unless there was a page missing, his official biography simply says he graduated with a law degree from Auckland University in 1994 and joined Princess Chambers the same year before shifting to the late John Haigh QC's City Chambers in 2003.

Other worthy recipients include Russell Bartlett, Steve Bonnar, Paul David, Antonia Fisher and Paul Rishworth (Auckland); Pru Steven and Peter Whiteside (Christchurch); Anita Chan (Dunedin); David Laurenson, Matt McClelland and Paul Radich (Wellington).

[CaseLoad hopes their anointed feet comply with the "once size fits all" special patent leather rain-proof pumps QCs are required to wear as symbols of their senior rank.]

Are There Enough Lawyers ???

Cash-strapped legal aid-denied lawyers - including those ashamed to take last year's soiled Range Rover down the tree-lined drive - are said to have rushed to back Labour leader David Cunliffe's promised Earthquake Court, thus ensuring years of never-ending and highly lucrative public-funded wrangles by briefs on all sides.

Seen And Heard

*Jovial Queen's Counsel and boatie, Jim "The Coxswain" Farmer, has a fresh spring in his step, watchers report.

Not only has Jimbo posted his first entertaining legal commentary in more than six months, revealing what he's been up to and with whom, but he and wife Rhonda featured prominently in the May issue of Ocean magazine - a must read for boat people of distinction.

Seems Jim and Rhonda also share a love of car rallying so look out for their tweaked BMW on the next Targa Rally of NZ.

"Gotta hand it to him," winked The Scunner, knowingly.

&bull: 9Justice Minister Judith Collins' eagerly awaited reply to CaseLoad's inquiry - in the interests of transparency - about what she did with whom and said to whom while on her China trip last year visit finally arrived.

But someone has blacked out vast tracts of her report to the Cabinet so it is not transparent and doesn't make sense. Why? More on this later.

In other news CaseLoad's formal application to become a non-lawyer "contributing member" of the Auckland district law society (ADLSI) has been rejected with regret.

It seems the required qualifying interest in, or engagement with, the law does not include scribbling about the doings of legal folk, their institutions or law-flavoured stuff which might be of wider public interest.

Musn't grumble, always gracious ADLSI president Brian Keene QC has offered CaseLoad a catch-up beer on his return from a lengthy trial in Fiji. These events are not related.

When Honourables Err

The prosecutions were different, the facts and circumstances were different and the laws broken were different but is there a similarity between the prosecution of John Banks and that of the Lombard Four???

Thorny issues such as these occupy many mulled Merlot musings in the Ladies and Escorts Lounge.

The Lombard directors - former Justice Ministers Doug Graham and Bill Jeffries, former Buckingham Palace PR flunky Lawrie Bryant and Michael Reeves - were found guilty of making untrue statements in investment documents and advertisements, despite being deemed by all the higher courts to be honest men.

The honest Lombard masterminds were convicted and, after fine legal minds got them off serving custodial sentences of home detention, now have to do their original sentences of community work.

Mr Banks, on the other hand, having been found by Justice Ed Wylie to have been less than frank, has not been convicted by the judge, who is due to hear Queen's Counsel David Jones argue on August 1 that Mr Banks should be discharged without conviction.

No doubt a primary plank of that argument will be Mr Banks' previous exemplary record and his significant lifetime contribution to national and local politics.

His resignation from Parliament this week should not effect what Justice Wylie does, but the judge is bound to take into account Mr Banks' good conduct and contribution when considering entering a conviction and/or an appropriate sentence.

That will be balanced against the judge's finding - beyond reasonable doubt - that Mr Banks knew his electoral return was false when he signed it.

In a decision which even surprised some not on Mr Banks' loyalty card, Justice Wylie left little doubt of how seriously he regarded the offending.

If CaseLoad was a betting man he would have done a bundle on the verdict, but in the opinions of others who claim more intimacy with how judges think, it's a fairly safe punt Mr Banks, if convicted, will not be sent to jail.

"Nothing will be accomplished by jailing the man," said Our Man At The Bar.

"Banksie is not going to re-offend and there seems little need for a deterrent sentence. However, if he doesn't show some genuine remorse he could get a sticky time from this judge."

"Despite protesting his innocence throughout - but never in the witness box - Banksie has been found to be less than frank, so is there a realistic hope he might be discharged without conviction?" said OMATB.

"Stranger things have happened."

"Of course, leaving all this aside, and Banksie having nailed his innocent flag so firmly to the mast, there's still an appeal process to be considered."

"I'll have two bob on that," said The Scunner.

Next Time

Inside The Tell-All World Of Jim Farmer.

Can Beggars Afford To Be Choosers???

- NZ Herald

Jock Anderson

A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

With a life-time of court reporting under his belt - and from the sanctuary of the Ladies & Escorts Lounge - journalist Jock Anderson produces law-flavoured news and views with a touch of humour - occasionally aided and abetted by disparate cronies including Our Man At The Bar and The Scunner.

Read more by Jock Anderson

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